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Bulldogs present final SEC tune-up

South Carolina returns to the court on Saturday afternoon to take on South Carolina State in the final nonconference contest before SEC play opens Wednesday night. The Gamecocks (9-3), still shorthanded, will look to polish off the nonconference slate with a victory and head to SEC play with a five-game winning streak.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin

Date: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013
Tipoff: 1:30 p.m. ET
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Series: South Carolina leads 18-0
Last Meeting: South Carolina win, 79-51, Jan. 3, 2012 in Columbia, S.C.
Television: FSN

South Carolina will enter the contest against the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon once again down three players. On Friday afternoon it was announced that senior LaShay Page would not compete with the team for the rest of the year due to an academic issue that occurred during the first semester.

The Gamecocks will also be without the services of freshman Michael Carrera who, is still recovering from a hip injury that sidelined him prior to the Presbyterian game. Carrera’s return is still up in the air according to Martin.

“He won’t play Saturday,” Martin said of Carrera. “I don’t hide injuries from people but I am not into timetables either. He has a hip issue, it is not career threatening but the stress makes it worse so he has to rest it.”

The third player the Gamecocks will be missing is two-sport star Bruce Ellington, who is returning from the Outback Bowl. Martin spoke with his junior earlier this week to lay out the plans for when Ellington would return to the court.

“I talked to Bruce and was so happy that he made that catch after not contributing the whole game,” Martin said. “I told him to take the rest of the week off. The kid has not caught his breath in more than a year so I asked him to go catch his breath, be around, listen, but take practice off and don’t worry about that mental frame of mind about competing.”

The Gamecocks have played just one game in the past one 13 days which was their December 29 contest against Presbyterian. The ball club has not been allowed to rest though according to Martin, who has continued to push his team through tough practices.

“We came back December 26 and we went that night,” Martin said. “We took the 1st off just because we don’t need to run them in the ground but we have pretty much been going twice a day with the exception of the day before the game.”

A win on Saturday afternoon over the Bulldogs would mark just the second time since the 2003-2004 season that the Gamecocks completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with double-digit wins. The other season was 2008-09 when the Gamecocks finished with 10 wins in nonconference play.

In order to do that, Martin believes his team will need to look past the Bulldogs record and focus on the players they have and what they are capable of doing.

“We live in a world where we judge everybody by their record,” he said. “I see them on tape and I see a group of guys that have athleticism. I watched them against Maryland and I think Maryland is real good and they were nose to nose with Maryland.”

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